Armida was written to be performed at the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples, on 11 November 1817 to celebrate the opening of the rebuilt opera house which had been destroyed by fire the previous year. Isabella Colbran sang the title role, which is one of the longest and most demanding that Rossini wrote, with difficult coloratura passages of every kind during the entire opera. The most notable are to be found in "D'amore al dolce impero" during Act 2, in the duets between Armida and Rinaldo, and in parts of the Act 3 finale.
The first modern staging took place at the Teatro Comunale Florence on 26 April 1952, during the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, with Maria Callas and Francesco Albanese in the leading roles and Tullio Serafin conducting. More recently, performances were given in Aix-en-Provence in 1988, with June Anderson, Rockwell Blake, Raúl Giménez, under conductor Gianfranco Masini, and at the Rossini Opera Festival in 1993, with Renée Fleming and Gregory Kunde, under conductor Daniele Gatti.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 11 November 1817
(Conductor: Nicola Festa)
|Armida, Princess of Damascus, a sorceress||soprano||Isabella Colbran|
|Rinaldo, a paladin knight||tenor||Andrea Nozzari|
|Gernando, a paladin||tenor||Claudio Bonoldi|
|Ubaldo, a paladin||tenor||Claudio Bonoldi|
|Carlo, a paladin||tenor||Giuseppe Ciccimarra|
|Goffredo, (Godfrey of Bouillon), the leader of the paladins||tenor||Giuseppe Ciccimarra|
|Eustazio, his brother||tenor||Gaetano Chizzola|
|Idraote, king of Damascus and Armida's uncle||bass||Michele Benedetti|
|Astarotte, leader of Armida's spirits||bass||Michele Benedetti|
|Paladins, warriors, demons, spirits|
Goffredo, commander of the Christian forces, comforts and rallies the Frankish soldiers, who are mourning the recent death of their leader. A noblewoman appears and introduces herself as the rightful ruler of Damascus. She claims that her throne has been usurped by her evil uncle Idraote and asks for help and protection. In fact she is the sorceress Armida and in league with Idraote, who has entered with her in disguise. Their plan is to weaken the Crusaders by enslaving some of their best soldiers. The men are so dazzled by Armida's beauty that they convince Goffredo to help her. Goffredo decides that the Franks must choose a new leader, who will then pick ten soldiers to go with Armida. They elect Rinaldo, much to the jealousy of the knight Gernando ("Non soffrirò l'offesa"). Armida and Rinaldo, who is the Crusaders’ best soldier, had met once before, and she is secretly in love with him. She now confronts him and reminds him how she saved his life on that occasion. When she accuses him of ingratitude, he admits that he's in love with her (Duet: "Amor… possente nome!"). Gernando sees them together and insults Rinaldo as a womanizer in front of the other men. They duel and Rinaldo kills Gernando. Horrified by what he has done, he escapes with Armida before Goffredo can punish him.
Astarotte, one of the princes of Hell, has led a group of demons into a forest to help Armida. She arrives there with Rinaldo, who's completely enthralled by her (Duet: "Dove son io!"). Even when she tells him about Idraote's plot, he doesn’t turn against her. To Rinaldo's amazement, Armida then turns the forest into a vast pleasure palace. Armida muses on the power of love ("D’Amore al dolce impero") and offers for Rinaldo's entertainment a pantomime about a warrior being seduced by nymphs. Rinaldo, having lost all thoughts of military honor, gives himself over to Armida's enchantment.
Two of Rinaldo's fellow knights, Ubaldo and Carlo, have been sent on a mission to save him. When they arrive in Armida's enchanted gardens, they are overwhelmed by the beauty of them, even though they know it's all an illusion. With the help of a magical golden staff, they ward off the nymphs that try to seduce them, then hide when Rinaldo and Armida appear. Rinaldo is still captivated by the sorceress, but once he is alone, Ubaldo and Carlo confront him. When they show him his reflection in a shield, he's horrified to realize that he no longer recognizes himself as the honorable warrior he once was (Trio: "In quale aspetto imbelle"). Still torn by his love for Armida, Rinaldo prays for strength, then leaves with his comrades. Armida calls upon the powers of Hell to bring her lover back but finds herself helpless. She rushes off in pursuit of the men.
Armida reaches the three soldiers before they can sail away. She begs Rinaldo not to desert her and even offers to go into battle with him. Ubaldo and Carlo restrain Rinaldo, trying to bolster his strength, and ultimately drag him away from her. Armida struggles between love and desire for revenge ("Dove son io?… Fuggì!"). She chooses revenge, destroying the pleasure palace and flying away in a rage.
- Sventurata! Or che mi resta? - cavatina for Armida
- Se pari agli accenti - duet for Rinaldo and Gernando
- Ballet scene
- Unitevi a gara - terzet (trio) for Rinaldo, Ubaldo, and Carlo
Opera House and Orchestra
Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
(The first revival of the opera in the 20th century. Teatro Comunale, Firenze, 26/April/1952)
|Audio CD: Myto
Netherlands Radio Symphony
(Recording of a concert performance in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, 24 September)
|Audio CD: Celestial Audio
Cat: CA 494
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna
(Recorded at the Rossini Opera Festival)
|Audio CD: Sony Classical
Cat: S3K 58 968
Orchestra and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera, New York.
(Recording of a Met Live-in-HD performance)
- Premiere cast of the Met's Armida production, plus Opera News review by William R. Braun on archives.metoperafamily.org.
- Armida to be featured in 2014 Festival on rossinioperafestival.it
- Osborne, Charles 1994, pp. 76—77
- Synopsis from the Met's website, retrieved 3 April 2010
- Recordings of Armida on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Gossett, Philip; Brauner, Patricia (2001), " Armida " in Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Osborne, Charles (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, London: Methuen; Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340713
- Osborne, Richard (1990), Rossini, Ithaca, New York: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-088-5
- Osborne, Richard (1998), "Armida", in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. One, p. 199. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 1-56159-228-5
- Osborne, Richard (2004), "Rossini's Life", in Emanuele Senici (Ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Rossini, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00195-1.
- Servadio, Gaia (2003), Rossini, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003. ISBN 0-7867-1195-7
- Toye, Francis (re-issue 1987), Rossini: The Man and His Music, Dover Publications, 1987. ISBN 0-486-25396-1,